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Science & Spirituality



THE FOLLOWING IS A LECTURE GIVEN BY HRIDAYANANDA DAS GOSWAMI IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA ON APRIL 13, 2014.

Starting at Stanford a couple years ago and then at many other universities, I have spoken on the topic of the history of the relationship between science and spirituality, or science and religion.

Human beings have always understood that the universe is bi-dimensional, in the sense that there is an obvious physical universe, and each of us is the proud owner or driver of a physical body. We have immediate and continuous contact with the physical world through our senses. At the same time, we also have immediate and regular contact with an inner dimension.

In fact, it is very common in English or in any other language to say things like, “I feel it inside of me.” Additional evidence that there is a real world beyond the physical world includes our deeply held moral convictions.

For example, if we see someone commit a horrendous act- killing innocent people or children, God forbid- in the deepest part of ourselves, we do not accept the evolutionary explanation of those emotions. Which would be, from the point of view of Scientism (an English word meaning fanatical science), that there is nothing but a physical world and evolution has somehow blindly wired us to experience certain kinds of beliefs or emotions when we experience certain events because gene pools/communities that experience those emotions and beliefs tend to survive better.

From the strictly empirical point of view, you can not speak about right and wrong, because right and wrong are words that indicate values. In fact, if we want to talk about a strictly physical or empirical universe, we can not objectively speak any English sentence that contains the word ‘should,’ ‘must,’ or ‘ought to,’ because all those verbs indicate values. Words like right or wrong, good or bad, should, ought, must, etc. exclusively describe human beliefs and emotions that say nothing about the “real” world that exists objectively outside of our minds. If that is the case, no matter what atrocity someone commits, we can not say (if we are speaking scientifically) that Hitler was a bad man or that it is ever bad to harm an innocent person.

The point I am making here is that we know- in the deepest part of ourselves- that some things are really wrong and some things are really right. Our deepest moral instincts reveal to us that the universe is bi-dimensional.